Salt River Tubers

July 16, 2006

When the monsoon takes a break and it's one-hundred-freakin'-ten-degrees in the shade, there's only one thing to do: float down the Salt River with the rest of the scum. Most of our friends turn up their noses at this floating beer bust, but they fail to appreciate the comic potential of the situation. First of all, there's me and Dennis in broad-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and river shoes. And there's everybody else wearing Speedos and a smile. We're carrying tiny dry sacks with lunch, a bottle of water and the car keys. They're toting a cooler full of beer and a boom box. So while they're snickering at the old farts in the funny clothes, we're chuckling because we know youth is no match for old age and treachery. More on that in a moment.

It's a good idea to arrive at Salt River Tubing right when they open at 9:00 in the morning, before your fellow tubers have had time to get falling down, puking in the water drunk. You'll have an hour or so to peacefully bob along in the cool, clear water, while the broiling desert slides by on either side. Red-winged blackbirds fill the air with their rusty pulley chatter, and you'll also spot cactus wrens, white-winged doves, boat-tailed grackles, and great blue herons. But the biggest thrill was spotting three great egrets, pure white and nearly four feet tall, sliding soundlessly through the reeds.

After the first mile or so, evasive maneuvers become necessary because a) there are some narrow sections with entertaining quickwater and b) the tubers have absorbed so much alcohol that they have congealed into large aimless clumps that slosh back and forth in the eddies until the next group arrives and slams them back into the current.

About halfway downstream the river splits into two channels with some pretty good rapids on each side. For a good time, ferry to the left side of the river and ID the biggest chunks: the bozos with the blasting boom box, the dope that dumped the bag of marshmallows, the pea brain who pesters every female to "show me your tits," the guys (and gals!) whose vocabulary is limited to "woo woo!" and "wadthefuk". All you have to do is stand on the shore and create the slightest distraction -- dropping a swimsuit strap, chanting "woo woo wadthefuk woo woo", pointing vigorously at the opposite shore ... it never occurs to these poor bastards that the grey hairs could have anything but kindly intentions.

At the very least, you should be able to generate enough indecision that the entire mess will crash head-on into the tip of the island, where most of the tubes will flip over. You get extra points if it's the tube with the open cooler of beer. The overhanging branches will scrape off whatever's left over.

Time to pack up and speed down the river again. Notice how quiet it got all of a sudden! By staying to the left, you can easily skirt the next obstacle, which is the crowd that gathers below an unstable cliff where drunk 20-somethings leap headlong into the water, providing a fine example of Darwinian theory in action.

The last section of the river can be quite peaceful, due to the combined effects of alcohol poisoning, dehydration and severe sunburn. The desert is resilient and cunning, and Coyote always has the last laugh.